"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, June 24, 2011

Please test us too: A bad solution to a non-existent problem

The US Department of Education is planning the most massive and expensive testing program ever seen on the planet, far exceeding the already unacceptable level of testing demanded by NCLB.

The Department of Education will require, as before, summative testing at the end of the academic year, but will also require testing several times during the academic year (interim testing), and the plans include the option of pre-testing in the fall to be able to measure growth during the school year.

The Department will, as before, test students in math and reading, but is also encouraging testing other subjects as well, and the National Science Council is eager to cooperate, recommending new standards and tests in science ("Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics," National Science Council, 2011).

All this is in response to a STEM crisis that may or may not exist (e.g. David Berliner, in Pereyra et. al. (Eds), PISA Under Examination. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.)

Even if the STEM crisis were real, there is no evidence that all these new standards and tests will improve achievement, and plenty of evidence that it won't (e.g. Krashen, S. A Fundamental Principle: No Unnecessary Testing (NUT), available at sdkrashen.com. The National Science Council report provides only mildly suggestive evidence supporting standards, p. 27.).

The new standards and tests will also cost billions, not only to develop and revise the tests, but also to administer them on-line. This is money that is badly needed elsewhere.

In short, the National Council of Science proposal to toughen science standards and add more tests is a bad solution to a problem that may not even exist.

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